Thursday, October 12, 2006

I had two managers


I had two managers

I had a number of bosses in my working life. I reported to various people, some good and some bad, but I can consider myself quite an expert on being managed.
Today, I want to talk about two of them, the two best bosses I’ve ever had.

The first one was also my first boss. As a young developer, I worked at a global consulting firm. My team’s coordinator was the most productive developer I’ve always known. He was able to write pages and pages of code without a single bug. I’ve heard of Mozart writing music without corrections ever, he was the Visual Basic equivalent of Mozart. He was also bold, good-looking and very, very clever.
I implemented forms and procedures interlocked with the backbone that he created in previous projects. More often than not he used to write down a bit of pseudocode and let me connect the dots. In few months, I was able to do a lot by myself (usually I learn quickly) without hints. I also learnt very well the large system we were developing for an even larger firm. Given the high turnover, that will ride me down later, I quickly become the maximum expert on the system. Despite that, he used to discuss with me even the subtlest details of the implementations, improving my ideas. He had an insight that I was barely starting to parallel one year later.

The second one was the CIO of the Italian subsidiary of a large French multinational firm. By that time, I already had several years of experience but I did not make to be a project leader yet. I had quite a large expertise on Business Intelligence and planning on Microsoft technologies. I was, for the large part of the tasks, independent.
My boss, at that time used to give me a target, a budget, and then let me go my way. Sometimes we used to sync about the projects, usually at the coffee machine. When I needed help or I had something significant to tell, we interacted; otherwise there was no need. I enjoyed the largest freedom ever. That was the time when I learnt the most, improved my skills at the fastest pace and reached the highest responsibilities available in the company. In fact I experienced a row of positive outcomes.

They were both good bosses, but they could not have been more different. The first micromanaged me, he did what usually is thought to be a bad practice. The second, on the contrary was the prototype of the good manager (maybe it was because of the management courses…).

How comes I loved both? How comes I loved the first one?

Because the first was a person I could admire and learn from. He was the single person who contributed the most to my professional education. This means that micro management and detailed resource coordination are not always wrong. People with no or little experience actually need micromanagement. Micromanagement is what can take them out of their whiteboard condition. There are a number of bloggers who support my second boss’ principles, and there is a general agreement around them. I myself agree (after more than ten years experience, I too hate to be micromanaged), but let’s not forget that young people can become effective and experienced by managers’ constant care. Note that I say care opposing it to scare, which, in turn, is the most common method to manage young people forcing a Darwinian selection among the youngest.
So, managers, let your stars go ahead alone, and help the young move their steps.


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